Off Grid Home Forums Technical Discussion Solar panels – New technology

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    A friend has told me of a couple of items recently on BBC Breakfast TV about a new type of solar panel that has been developed. These are paper thin and much cheaper to produce than conventional cells. The first programme featured a cell for personal use but “within days” another programme said that development had moved on so quickly that these were now viable on a commercial basis. I have tried all the ususal searches but cannot trace what this is all about. Has anybody an ideas/websites please?


    I believe you are referring to this:

    It is a flexible solar cell printed on thin sheets of aluminum which cn be as thin as aluminum foil. I don’t know if it is commercially available yet.


    I heard of an improved solar PV technology sometime in 2006 or 2007. If it’s the same, it was developed in S Africa. I’ll post links when I find them.


    I bought this new solar panel technology, which is a new type of evacuated tube technology. It works brilliantly, and I live in north england.

    I don’t know how good the old technology was, but this is a direct feed solar tube, which apparently makes it more efficient.

    I got a DIY kit from and got my brother to install it for me.


    nanosolar appears to be a long way from sales to the general public . Makes more sense to go for a small number of big sales, unfortunately !


    While nanosolar isn’t quite ready for sales to the public, you can buy other panels which use a similar technology. Try a search for Kaneka K60 panels they are considerably cheaper (in price per watt) than poly or mono panels. But bear in mind that you’ll need more space for the same power output.


    In my own home area, a team of scientists at Colorado State University developed a thin film solar cell technology over the past few years that will allow the conversion of regular window class to solar panels. They have formed a commercial venture called AVA Solar, Inc. and recently broke ground on a new facility here in Colorado that is expected to be operational by the middle of 2009. It’s expected to initially bring over 150 jobs to the area, and eventually 500 new jobs once they really get cranking. The product should be on the market in a little over one year. They began moving production equipment into a newly leased building just a couple weeks ago.

    Web site:

    Bob Walsh

    Advances in solar photovoltaic panels are happening at a fast and furious rate. Plus, the newest panels should have an even longer life expectancy than the older models–older panels have started to turn brown in the clear substrate the solar cells are mounted in, reducing their power output. This problem has been solved by using new plastics in the manufacturing process. The biggest advances in new solar panel technology recently have been in power density–the newest panels are the same size as older models, but put out more power per square foot.


    Solar panels and LED lighting systems are indeed advancing rapidly, and their prices are decreasing too. I belive in the near future they will replace traditional systems


    When discussing solar panel efficiency bear in mind that scientists have calculated the solar energy striking the earth’s surface is one thousand watts per square meter. This then is a bench mark against which we can evaluate efficiency. If one square meter of solar panel can deliver 1000 watts of electrical energy it would be 100% efficient. Unfortunately nothing manmade is 100% efficient. To assess what the real efficiecny is, divide the actual output by the theoretical output. this will give you a fairly accurate measure of efficiecny at your installation site.

    For the past decade the target price of solar panels has been $0.50 USD per watt produced. This is approximaterly the cost per watt for more conventional generators in the smaller household sizes under 100 kilowatt generation capacity market.

    When I joined Xantrex a decade ago, the price per watt of installed solar panels was almost $6.00 per watt and the best price I have seen this past week is around $3.70 per watt.

    Supporters will praise this as a gain of cutting the cost almost by half while detractors will say this price is still seven times as much as other power generating choices.

    Its a case of; is the glass half full or half empty?

    What really irks me is the claim of FREE POWER. There is no such thing as totally FREE POWER. There is a cost associated with building the infrastructure needed to collect and store any form of energy. Some forms of power collection and generation cost more and some cost less.

    Throughout history we have seen various methods developed to harness nature’s power. At one time animals wer hitched to treadmills to thresh grain and grind grain into flour. Apart from cost of building the threadmill and the thresher or grist mill there was the ongoing cost to feed the animals. Stop feeding them and they soon die and you now had to buy fresh animals to run the mill. Falling water was used but it cost time and materials to make an effective water wheel. Wind was also tried. History abounds with examples of technical solutions to get power to replace human muscle power. Some with more success than others.

    However among the biggest lies are those that claim “clean and green power.

    Solar and LED light has been touted as clean and green. What most people are not aware of, is what manufacturing steps are involved in the process of making semiconductor electronic equipment. Every step in the process requires cleaning; often using chemicals that are toxic and or carciogenic.

    Many people are not aware why almost thirty years ago the industrialized nations began shifting electronic manufacturing overseas to third world countries. The reason was simple. Our goverment agencies charged with identifying hazardous materials deemed most of the cleaning solvents used in the electronic industry to be too dangerous to be kept in our environment. Solution? Move the facility elsewhere to a place where the population was unaware of the hazards or too poor to protest. In exchange they received some jobs at better than local average pay.

    I don’t know how many readers remember Love Canal or Bhopal. Both are place names for environmental disasters involving death and birth defects reaching across generations to a huge number of people. In both cases it was a question of dangerous chemicals being accidentally released so unwitting people could come into contact with it and either dying outright or suffer lingering diseases that eventually killed them. Genetic birth defects was mong the medical problems that linger on.

    ‘Green electronics industry’. There probably is no such thing.

    To call solar a ‘green’ technology is NIMBYism at its best or worst depending on your viewpoint.

    There is a cost associated with everything. Question becomes are we truly aware of the hidden costs and would we still pay it if we knew?


    To anyone doubting the dangers of the cleaning solvents used in electronic component manufacture look up 1-1-1 trichloretahne xylene and tolyuol (sp?) and various isopropyl something or other. look up the hazardous materials data sheets and look at the known health hazards. Then ask yourself if you would like to work in a place where the air is saturated with the fumes from these chemicals. How about having these chemicals leach into your drinking water wells? Remember that with some of these chemicals, even a few parts per million can have long term health effects.


    i agree about the solvents etc.

    Also the embodied energy of a PV system is very high at the moment.

    It would be very interesting to see a system that is very low efficiency but very low cost. This would, be good for many off-griders that have large amount of land, and can build the PV’s themselves etc.

    Also taking solar thermal energy and converting that to electrical.

    Its good because you can store 1,000 of liters of BTU energy in water underground. 40 ft shipping container for example.

    Or you can do the coversion immediatly and staor as electricity.

    Or you can store as hydrogen too.

    Which leads me to the aspect of the PV’s that output hydrogen NOT electricity.

    At the Uppsala University they are doing thsi now.

    Basically they have worked out how photosynthesis works and are replicating it.

    Having hydrogen is great because you can store it for ever ( apart from leaks :) ) and turn it into electricity or Heat when you need it.

    Here is a schematic of an example system in Switzerland:

    Its nice and simple to understand:


    Ther is one little fly in the ointment. You said: Having hydrogen is great because you can store it for ever ( apart from leaks :) ) and turn it into electricity or Heat when you need it”

    ?? storage forever??”

    That little bit about apart from leaks has proven to be a major obstacle. Because hydrogen molecules are so small they tend to permeate most materials and leak out. When I was working for a company building controllers for the fuelling machinery for a nuclear reactor we had to leak test it against hydrogen absorption forming explosive gas pockets inside the electrical equipment. We were permitted to use Helium as a test gas because it was non explosive yet had a molecular size close to hydrogen. Therefore similar permeability and leak characteristics.

    Hydrogen permeation also cause embrittlement in metal tanks. Until this storage problem is solved you are not going to see low cost, mass producable hydrogen fuel tanks. In the meantime, hydrogen is best stored as a compound that combines hydrogen molecules with something else in order to facilitate leak proof tanks.

    Electrical storage has its own problems. The current battery technology is either so expensive or so lossy as to be considered inefficient. The research continues.


    Speaking of storing a gas for future energy. I simply cannot understand why we continue to ignore a perfectly good gas that is storabe and burns clean. It is renewable being created from natural organic sources; and is cheap or free to make.

    The gas has a chemical formula of CH4 meaning it has 4 hydrogen molecules for every carbon molecule. PE membranes in fuels cells can seperate out the carbon and hydrogen and leaves only a pure carbon residue in a form that can be sequestered or used for carbon based nanotubes.

    Also because CH4 is considered a green house gas, trapping this naturally occurring gas as a a fuel is climate beneficial. It is green because it keeps this gas from being released to the atmosphere.

    We have had the technology available to convert this gas into heat, light, and vehicular fuel which is naturally created by ordinary organic methods.

    This is not something needing more R&D. it is not something we need to wait for. You can go and buy off-the-shelf products right now to use this marvellous gas or to create more of it for free. You can get generators lamps and furnaces and even vehicles designed to run on this marvellous gas.

    There are U Tube video clips showing generators, pumps, and vehicles, that use this gas, generated for free.

    Are we so besotted by the oil company BS that we can no longer see the forest for the trees?

    shame on us all for being so blind!


    Even so these panels are only 23% or less efficient. Compare that with a matural gas generator having 37% efficiecncy. Typicaqlly such a generator can be bought for 50 cents per watt. Not several dollars per watt. Wind generators are also more efficient.

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